All Science on Tap events take place at 6pm the second Monday of the month at National Mechanics, 22 S. 3rd St., Philadelphia, PA 19106, unless otherwise stated. Be sure to arrive early to get seats!


Monday September 10, 2018
6:00-7:00 pm

“How An Unpopular Policy Based on Incorrect Science Saved Philadelphia from Yellow Fever”

-Dr. David Barnes

Yellow fever devastated Philadelphia four times in the 1790s, killing more than ten thousand residents and casting into doubt the future viability of the city itself—at the time, the nation’s capital and largest city. Local health officials responded with a set of policies that were widely resented as burdensome and denounced as ineffective. They were based on theories of disease that seem laughably outdated today. Almost immediately, however, yellow fever epidemics became much less frequent and much less deadly than before. David Barnes examines some possible explanations for this unlikely success.

Cernea watercolor cropped

About the Speaker:
David Barnes is Associate Professor of History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania.  He received his Ph.D. in History from the University of California, Berkeley in 1992.  He has written two books on the ways in which political, social, and cultural change reshaped perceptions of the urban environment, infectious disease, and public health in nineteenth-Century France.DSB@LazMB square

Barnes is currently writing a history of the Lazaretto quarantine station (1799-1895) on the Delaware River outside Philadelphia, and is actively involved in the preservation of the Lazaretto site.  In recent years, he has also taught and written about strategies for presenting history to the public, and about the ways in which historical perspectives can change the way we confront health and illness today.

This month’s Science on Tap is hosted by The American Philosophical Society.